Crude - the incredible journey of oil

United States Crude Oil - Where Does It Come From?

The following pie chart says more than any text could. The United States is only able to domestically extract 36% of the crude oil we consume. Amercians might be surprized to discover that just over 13% of our crude oil comes from Central and South America and just under 13% comes from Africa. The biggest surprize for me was the presence of Kazakhstan on the list of countries from which we import crude oil. We imported 3.34 million barrels of oil from Kazakhstan in July, making them #16 on the list that month.

US Crude Oil

Source: Energy Information Agency (EIA), Petroleum At-A-Glance

How Long Will Earth's Finite Resources Last?

Calculate How Long Earth's Resources Will Last

We live on a planet with finite geologic reserves of oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, copper, phosphorus and even fresh water. It would be easy to believe that we will always have them in abundance. We have lived in a golden age of excess. How is it possible that we have ignored the warnings of leading scientists for the last half century?

Albert A BartlettOne such scientist is Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, Physics, Colorado University at Boulder. He began his lifetime effort to alert us to the problems associated with exponential population growth and associated resource consumption in the late 1950s and has given his famous lecture on Arithmetic, Population and Energy over 1,600 times since September 1969, an average of once every 8.5 days.

"The consumption of resources is generally growing exponentially, and we would like to have an idea how long resources will last. ... Imagine that the rate of consumption of a resource grows at a constant rate until the last of the resource is consumed whereupon the rate of consumption promptly falls to zero."

~Albert A. Bartlett, 1978

Of course that doesn't actually happen, the rate of production for any of earth's geologic resources generally begins to decline when about half of the resource has been extracted. This reduction in production compels humans to reduce consumption. But if you could extract and consume earth's resources in the hypothetical manner described, a math model could be used to calculate how long the resource would last.

Formulas for static and growth rates of extraction and consumption:

proved reserves
static reserve index
current consumption

natural logarithm of (1 + annual growth rate
of consumption x static reserve index)
annual growth rate of consumption


Calculate It Yourself

This calculator uses the above formulas to predict when the proved reserves of geologic resources would be exhausted assuming both static and growth rates of extraction and consumption. The calculator makes no allowance for future discoveries, improvements in technology, changes in demand due to economic or technologic changes or declining rates of production due to peaking phenomenon.

Enter proved reserves here:
Enter annual consumption here:
Enter annual growth rate here (%):
Years left without growth:
Years left with growth:

Here are some numbers that you can enter now. But the purpose of this calculator is to give you the opportunity to find the numbers yourself and so satisfy yourself that future growth of any level is unsustainable and that even without growth we will soon exhaust current proved reserves.

Calculating World Oil

According to the US Department of Energy's (DoE) Energy Information Agency (EIA), proved world oil reserves stood at 1,238.892 billion barrels at the end of 2007. Oil includes crude oil, gas condensate, and natural gas liquids.

According to the EIA, "proved reserves" are estimated quantities that analysis of geologic and engineering data demonstrates with reasonable certainty are recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions. The estimate includes 21.0 billion barrels of unconventional oil from Canadian oil sands under active development but does not include an additional 152.2 billion barrels estimated that are currently unproven (may not be technically available).

That same year petroleum consumption for the world was 85,930.821 million barrels per day or 31.365 billion barrels for the year. This estimate includes petroleum from all sources, including unconventional sources such as oil sands and bio fuels.

According to the US government's World Fact Book (2007), the world population growth rate was just 1.167%. The world population growth rate peaked in 1963 at 2.2% and is now in slow decline. The expected greater than population growth rate increase in demand for oil by emerging third world countries has been offset somewhat by reduced demand in developed nations that have been affected by an economic slowdown.

There will be discoveries of oil in the future. World oil discovery peaked in 1965 with 55 billion barrels of new oil being discovered that year. However, discovery has fallen off dramatically and in each of the last ten years less than 10 billion barrels of new oil has been discovered. There is no reason to believe that discovery will increase and every reason to believe that it will decrease.

For our example, let's assume that all of the proved reserves are technically and economically available. Let's also assume that about a third of the unproven oil sands in Canada will be developed in the next 42 years. Also, let's assume that an optimistic 10 billion barrels of new oil will be discovered each year for the next 42 years, more in the early years and less in the later years.

Enter 1709.625 in the proven reserves box. Then enter 31.365 in the annual consumption box. And enter 1.167 in the annual growth rate box. Then click the calculate button.

Calculating United States Coal

According to the US Department of Energy's (DoE) Energy Information Agency (EIA), as of January 1, 2008, EIA estimated that the remaining U.S. recoverable coal reserves totaled over 262 billion short tons (a short ton is a unit of weight equal to 2,000 pounds), from a demonstrated reserve base (DRB) of 489 billion short tons.

The EIA goes on to estimate recoverable coal reserves at producing mines representing the quantity of coal that can be recovered (i.e. mined) from existing coal reserves at reporting mines. These reserves essentially reflect the working inventory at producing mines. In 2007, the recoverable coal reserves at producing mines were just 18.6 billion short tons.

The United States consumed 1,112,292,000 short tons of coal in 2006 and 1,127,998,000 short tons of coal in 2007. The increase in annual consumption was 1.4%.

So which numbers are you going to use? The recoverable coal reserves at producing mines won't last much longer? What will it take to develop more producing mines and recover coal from the remaining recoverable coal reserves? Will farmland, residential property, villages, towns and cities have to be displaced? If oil becomes short before the new mines are developed, will it be possible to develop new producing mines? Can the new producing mines produce enough coal without abundant oil to meet demand?

A Peak Oil Update

As early as 2003 many scientific and industry experts in the petroleum industry were expressing concerns that world oil production would soon peak. In May of 2005 production of both oil and natural gas peaked at 82.09 million barrels per day and production remained more or less flat for the next five years before peaking again in August 2008 at 82.88 million barrels per day and then falling off to levels not seen since 2004.

In late 2007 the market began to react as oil production levels that had been flat the previous four years began to fall off. Oil prices moved from about $62 per barrel to over $124 per barrel in a period of about nine months. With prices shooting up, producer began to pump from reserve capacity. Reserve capacity is the higher rate that oil can be extracted for a period of time before dropping back to lower levels to let the field recover.

Incredibly high oil prices coupled with an exhausted credit market conspired to kill demand. Demand fell with or ahead of production drops and the price fell to just over $31 per barrel before recovering to its current level of about $74 per barrel; the same price it was in late 2007 when the last price surge began.

As markets begin to recover from the credit crunch, it remains to be seen whether or not oil production, now standing at 79.97 million barrels per day can return to levels approaching or exceeding 82 million barrels per day. It appears that we may be past peak.

Charts and graphs used in Zarathustra's Peak Oil Update video can be found at The Oil Drum, an informative site for discussions about energy and our future.

Robert Newman's History of Oil

British stand-up comedian, author and political activist, Rob Newman, entertains and educates us at the same time.

Click here to hear a short audio clip (MP3 - 1.57MB) from Robert Newman's History of Oil entitled "Peak Oil".

Click here to visit the official Rob Newman web site. 

View Robert Newman's History of Oil

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